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Amazon recently received patents for an “ultrasonic bracelet” that tracks workers’ movements. Pitched as a labor-saving device, they monitor how efficiently workers fill orders as well as giving them positive “haptic feedback” — a little vibration — as they reach for the correct bins, reducing unnecessary motion.

If this sounds a bit like planning to turn humans into robots, you are not alone; the news prompted a minor hysteria. However frightening, though, it’s hardly new. In fact, several long-dead pioneers of “scientific management” anticipated this development, even if they might not entirely approve of Amazon’s approach.

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